BELLBROOK — Late-game execution was the difference for Bellbrook in a key Southwestern Buckeye League game against Monroe Thursday.
Up four after a basket by Monroe sophomore Paige Frazier with 49 seconds left, the Golden Eagles made all the plays the rest of the way — grabbing rebounds and sinking free throws to escape with a 44-35 win over the pesky and much-improved Hornets.
Sophomore Kelley Griffin made four free throws in the final 18 seconds after a crucial layup by sophomore Mallory Gedeon off a nifty pass from senior Bailey Zerby and the Hornets managed just one free throw during that stretch.
Griffin finished with a game-high 14 points, while Zerby and sophomore Olivia Trusty each had nine points for the Golden Eagles, who improved to 12-1 overall and 6-0 in Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division.
“When you get into a back and forth late, it comes down to possessions,” Coach Jason Tincher said.
The Golden Eagles made the most of theirs while Monroe didn’t.
It didn’t appear it would come to that after a 13-0 Bellbrook run late in the first and early in the second turned an 8-2 deficit into a 15-8 lead after Griffin swished a three-pointer from the top of the key. The lead reached 21-9 with 2:11 left but the Hornets (8-5 overall and 3-3 in the SWBL Southwestern) closed with a 7-2 run to make it 23-16 at halftime.
Gedeon scored after a rebound to start the third quarter and a basket by Zerby made it 27-18, but Monroe used a pair of three-pointers from freshman Saffie Weidner to tie the game at 27-27 with 3:08 left. Trusty made a rebound-putback with 33.8 seconds left to give Bellbrook a 29-27 lead after three.
Zerby was fouled after grabbing her own rebound and made a pair of free throws to put Bellbrook up, 31-27 and then Trusty scored on back-to-back possessions to open up a 35-27 lead with 4:23 left. Monroe scored five straight to make it a 35-32 game with 2:59 left and then after a Bellbrook miss, had the ball and a chance to tie.
Senior Alyssa Beckett drove to the basket with 1:50 and made a layup, but Zerby stepped in front and took a charge, negating the layup.
“That was huge,” Tincher said.
Junior Dreann Pryce made a free throw with 1:41 left and then after a Monroe miss and key rebound by freshman Taylor Scohy, Bellbrook seemingly put the game away with a pair of free throws from Zerby and a 38-32 lead with 1:03 left.
But that just set up the frenetic finish.
“I knew it was going to be a battle,” Tincher said. “They’re never out of a game because of the way they play defense.”
Monroe forced 25 Bellbrook turnovers and contested a good chunk of shots.
“They punched,” Tincher said. “It makes me proud to see the way (our players) carry themselves. They don’t get down.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.